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Peter O'Donoghue, Sales DNA
Peter O'Donoghue: guile.

It’s neither all about cold-calling nor social media but all about ‘sales guile’, declares of Sales DNA.

It is extremely interesting to read the latest buzz around the area of cold calling and telemarketing dying a death due to social media and other modern prospecting methods. I’m going to be upfront, here and give my opinion: cold calling will never disappear and that is a good thing.

Let me get this straight. I’m not talking about mass-market business to consumer calling, which is prehistoric and will die out. I am talking about professional, business-to-business (B2B) calling or, as I prefer to call it:

  • Identifying  people who potentially might have challenges you could solve, or goals you can help them achieve,  and seeing  if you can help them. If you both decide it warrants your meeting or further action, then you can agree to do so.

Trainers guilty

I do think the sales training Industry, bloggers and commentators, have for too long been guilty of a basic ‘school boy error’ that we tell all of our clients not to make. We have got caught up on the process and the tool and not the outcome.

Let me explain. The debate rages over the effectiveness, and legitimacy of cold calling which is fundamentally wrong. What we should be focusing on is the desired outcome, ie a business meeting or appointment, rather than just one of at least 20 ways of achieving that. This is a failing perpetuated by the training Industry which still holds ‘cold calling’ courses rather than classes aimed at ‘getting an appointment’. I could go even further to say a more relevant desired outcome in today’s modern, tech-savvy world could be to get a sales presentation. This might not even need a physical appointment thanks to the ease of using online ‘webinar’ programs such as

If I wanted to learn about gardening I wouldn’t go on a course about grass-cutting, I would go on a course designed to show me how to develop a low-maintenance, well-planted and decorative-garden. Grass-cutting is just a small part of that. Does that make sense?

What about social media?

Again, social media is one element of an integrated sales strategy that includes using the telephone. Recently, I was working with a large IT company. One of its sales team has 300 named accounts from which he is targeted to make around £10 million in sales. When we first spoke, he was down to his ‘tough nuts’. These were the last 42 contacts that he could not get in touch with.

When I listened to his approach it was an exact replica of the ‘canned’ spiel popularised by Stephen Schifman in the 1970s. He was stalled at the ‘gatekeeper’ to whom he had given the same patter at least three times previously – with no success. When we discussed where he would go from there it was plain that the next step was to diarise a call back in a few weeks.

Sales guile

I was shocked! I thought the world had moved on from that. There a complete lack of, what I term, ‘sales guile’. Being a tech savvy-sales professional I could immediately think of at least ten different ways of getting in touch. The first thing we tried was a simple Google listing on the person’s name by using ‘person’s name’ Within five minutes we had a whole goody bag of information to work with.

The IT director in question had:

  • Recently spoken at a conference on emerging technology. Areas of his topic were actually in line with the solutions provided by my client.
  • He was listed on a social networking directory - with an email address and an indication he was happy to be contacted for professional reasons.

Within 5 minutes we had the means of contact and the reason. We spent a few minutes drafting an email and then sent it off; it obviously referenced the conference he spoke at. Within three hours we had a reply and within two weeks a meeting.

The moral of that story is, if your desired outcome is to get a meeting, then focus on that. Don’t get too caught up on the mechanism. Ensure you have enough ‘sales guile’ and flexibility to find a way. On my training workshops we always stay focused on how to achieve the outcome and we cover at least 30 ways of getting there.

Would you like to know your prospect’s industry as well or better than they do?

The second essential element of ‘sales guile’ is using technology to understand your prospect’s Industry almost as well or even better than they do. How much would you pay for an information agency to email you every time there is a change in your prospects’ industry, or if they submit a press release, or if they win a big contract? Or if they are mentioned in a blog, or if there was a legislation change in their industry, or if there was a change in their clients’ industries? And if there are whitepapers or reports being issued relevant to your Industry and those of your prospects and customers?

Google Alerts
Google Alerts: market intelligence.

Would you pay me £1,000 per month for that?

Google will give you all of this, and more for free! Simply enter all of your existing and prospective customers names, products, competitors (and yours for that matter) and key individuals’ names into a simple tool called Google Alerts and you will be emailed every time they are mentioned anywhere on the internet. That is amazingly powerful!


Once you have done that you should also head over to Google Insights (just Google it!) where you will find one of the most valuable research tools money could buy. The beauty is, it’s free.

Google Insights will allow you to enter a few key search phrases and search on these to see the internet activity on those terms.

Google Insights
Google Insights: valuable research tool.
Diagram 2 shows a simple search on sales jobs, sales recruitment and job sites. These might be extremely useful areas to know about if you sold into the recruitment marketplace, for instance. Within two minutes you can tap into the following valuable information:

Area 1: This shows the search trends over time for those key terms. Interestingly, sales jobs has double the search term of its nearest competitor, sales recruitment. Also, there are clear areas of seasonality on search terms with the summer being the highest and November-February being the lowest. This is all-powerful information if this is your market place.

Area 2: Again great UK-specific information which shows you where the majority of searchers are coming from. You can go down to a city or town level with this. Where do you think the highest density of searches for ‘management consultancy’ is. I will give you a clue: it’s two UK places that compete in a boat race. Can you draw the significance?

Areas 3 and 4: These show the most frequent search terms related to the phrases originally searched on as well as the ‘what’s hot’ section. These are the latest, high-rising search terms. Do you think they might have significance in your industry? Look out for brand names, competitors’ names and new ‘buzz words’ to be aware of.


I have only demonstrated about 10% of what you can do with Google insights. When you are playing with it could you tell me why most UK searches for ‘ice cream’ come from Farnborough and what the hell is an ‘ice cream bike’? (It’s a bike with a cold compartment for storing ice-creams as opposed to a lady of dubious morals who will grant favours in return for a Mr Whippy – Ed!)

The 80s and 90s were the ages of the ‘opening lines’ and slick telephone tricks. Today’s modern selling environment is about sales guile, sales creativity and being able to master at least ten different ways of getting an appointment – not just cold calling.

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